Learn how to tell the difference between a tom, jake, and hen!

Tis’ the season for fall turkey hunting and bagging yourself a big, beautiful bird for the upcoming holiday! But, if you’re new to hunting or have never hunted turkeys, it’s important to be able to identify the various varieties!

At Liberty Firearms Institute (LFI), not only are we Northern Colorado’s premier indoor shooting range complete with both a firing range and an archery area, but we’re also your resource for everything gun-related! Take a moment and learn more about turkey identification in today’s post!

Turkey Hunting Basics: Turkey Identification

If you’re a beginner in turkey hunting, one of the very first things you’ll learn about is how to tell the difference between a male and female turkey, or what is referred to as a hen (mature female), gobbler/tom (mature male), or a jake (young male). 

Males (Tom)

Larger in overall size
Black breast feathers (shiny)
Vibrant blue and red heads with white on top
Long beards ( around 10 inches in length)
A uniform feather span when spread

Males (Jake)

Dull blue and red heads (typically no white)
A mix of shorter and longer tail feathers when spread (uneven and awkward)
Short beards (two to three inches in length)

Females (Hens)

Much smaller than males
A drab brown color (dull)
Short leg length
Shorter tail feathers

These identifications are important because depending on the area you’ll be hunting in and the season (typically spring), it may be illegal to kill a hen. 

For more information on hunting turkeys in Colorado, connect with Liberty Firearms Institute today!

Turkey Feathers

The feathers on a turkey is an easy way to quickly identify the sex of the turkey. 

A male turkey, including a jake and tom,  will have black breast feathers, while a female turkey will have brown breast feathers. 

The length of the legs is also a great identifier — the legs of a male turkey will be longer than that of a female turkey. 

One last turkey identifier is the feathers and the spread when they’re fanned. The feathers in the center of a male turkey will be longer than those on a female.  

The largest difference will be a turkey’s color — females are typically a drab brown, while males have a variety of colors and a metallic sheen to their feathers. 

The turkey takeaway: If you’re out hunting and unable to identify the bird, move on and wait for one that you can!

But, what’s the difference between a tom and jake?

Being able to tell the difference between a male and female turkey is relatively easy, but when it comes to identifying a tom and jake, this can get a bit more difficult. 

Tail fan – Pay attention to the tail fan. The biggest difference between a tom and jake is that the tail fan will look uneven and awkward when they’re spread, sticking up two to three inches above the rest. 

Turkey beards – Mature toms will have longer beards that can be up to 10 inches in length (hence the name longbeards) while jakes have shorter beards that are two to three inches in length. 

Head color – A good indicator of a tom that’s a solid identifier when hunting is a white color on their head. Jakes have a dull red and blue color, while toms will be much more of a vibrant red and blue with white on the top of their heads. 

Hunt your turkeys smartly!

Before you hit the great outdoors this season, make a mental checklist of how you’ll identify hens, toms, and jakes. Are they brown or black in color, what is the color of their heads, and what do their beards look like?

Once you have a clear identification, go on and bag your turkey!

Are you ready to sharpen your shooting skills for hunting? Stop into our indoor gun range today!